During the 1980s, I traveled to the Philippines a dozen times to research the famous and infamous Faith Healers. They were extremely controversial. Some people swore they were fake, that they were money grabbers and they never healed anyone. Others saw them as powerful, real and effective. But either way, that isn’t the point of this blog. It’s about the importance and value of finding a way to recall the details in our lives.

I’m a writer so I like to jot things down. I explored healing methods across a great deal of the Philippine Islands during that ten year period from Manila to Makati, from Cebu to Quezon City, from the inner province of Pangasinan to Mt. Banahaw to the mountainous pine forests of Baguio. Wherever I was, I wrote in a journal every night, not as a writing exercise but to create a road map, a memory aid, an account of where I went, how each healer worked and the particular strengths and weaknesses they demonstrated.

An example: Manila. Alex Orbito. Performs hundreds of healings
each Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, often confronted with witchcraft and blockages. Outdoor chapel with wooden benches. Glass walls in healing room. Hour long prayers before every session.

Those were the kinds of things I wrote. I didn’t jot down my feelings, my doubts or beliefs. No philosophical musings. It wasn’t about
writing well or turning phrases. It was about researching a mystery and no matter what I would ultimately decide about it, I wanted a clear memory of what I did, where I went and what happened while I was there.  

When I returned home after my third trip, I had seen so much that few westerners had privy to, I had so many questions and other worldly experiences, I decided to write a book. Not to prove anything to anyone. Not to exert my opinion as if I knew the answers. Some things remain a mystery, no matter how dogged the researcher. But with the aid of my journals, I recalled the details and made the prose come alive, describing things that would transport people to the places I went, both mentally and spiritually.

As I scanned my journals, each note I had made for myself,
each location, name and event, took me back to the exact moment it had happened. The smell of sugar cane burning in the fields on the way from the airport to my hotel. An “Esperitista” temple with an organ made exclusively from bamboo. A dinner in the open market that offered Fish Lip Soup. (Yes, there were fish lips floating in the broth.) Watching a woman speak in tongues and collapse into the arms of her fellow worshippers.

They say that the devil is in the details. I think the truth is in there, too. No matter what we do, no matter how we choose to interpret it,
recalling details is a gift, not only to us, but to other people so they can understand where we’ve been and what we’ve done. We gradually lose touch with particular parts of events as time passes and jotting notes about them in present time allows us to recall smells, textures and images that we might otherwise never bring
back into our consciousness.

You don’t have to be writing a book or painting a picture to value the details of an experience. A friend of mine lost his young son to an
untimely death and I suggested that when he was ready, I’d be glad to write down memories for him that he didn’t want to forget: how his son smiled, his favorite shirt, movies that he loved. My friend took me up on it. For him, it was a way to keep his lost loved one in his heart and his memory, a way to breathe life into that which was no longer there physically.

These days, people like to take pictures of things, what they eat, what they wear, who they’re with. That’s a good memory jogger but when I photograph something, I’m not completely present for it and the photo often gets lost in the myriad of pics I have on my phone. There is something about having an experience and writing it down with my own hands that sets it apart. It creates a different kind of imprint and rhythm, a visual trigger that wakes up my senses and offers me a way in. I keep up with the times. I write notes on my
iPhone and I take pictures. But I’m also old school. I always have a pen and pad in my reach, and while a photo says a thousand words, for me, a note on a piece of paper imparts a thousand feelings.